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In Kentucky, at least 8 people are dead after torrential rains flood Appalachia

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Intense rainfall lashed parts of the West, Midwest and South this week. And forecasters say it's not done yet. Over the next several days, a system is expected to dump as much as 5 inches of rain from the desert to the mid-Atlantic. In Kentucky, torrential downpours led to deadly flooding in the eastern part of the commonwealth. At least 15 people were killed. And Governor Andy Beshear says he expects that death toll to rise. Stan Ingold of member station WEKU has more.

STAN INGOLD, BYLINE: It has been raining in eastern Kentucky all week. But heavy rainfall Wednesday night brought massive damage across much of the southeastern portion of the commonwealth. Roads have been washed out, schools flooded and homes knocked off their foundations. Boats have been needed to rescue many people in the area. On Thursday, Governor Andy Beshear declared a state of emergency.

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ANDY BESHEAR: In a word, this event is devastating. And I do believe it will end up being one of the most significant, deadly floods that we have had in Kentucky in at least a very long time.

INGOLD: The Kentucky National Guard has been activated. And they'll get help from the Tennessee and West Virginia Guards as well. The governor said the commonwealth is working to find shelter for those whose homes have been destroyed or damaged.

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BESHEAR: So anyone who's been displaced, three state parks have been open to receive you, even though they are having their own impacts.

INGOLD: In hard hit Clay County, Brian Jackson is the deputy director of the county's emergency management agency. On Thursday, his team had been working all day to reach and rescue their neighbors, many of whom were stranded at home by high water. He said the long hours were already catching up to first responders.

BRIAN JACKSON: Our swift water crews, our fire departments, our, you know, police and ambulance people have been out all night and all day. So you know, fatigue is starting to set in as well.

INGOLD: Flooding is not uncommon for eastern Kentucky. But this much rain in this amount of time isn't typical, according to Alex Vorst. He's a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Jackson, which also saw flooding. He said that by Thursday afternoon, they had already seen up to 10 inches of rain.

ALEX VORST: This is very rare type of rainfall.

INGOLD: In Whitesburg, Ky., 18-year-old Zachary Caudill’s (ph) house is high enough that it didn't flood. But his town is mostly under water.

ZACHARY CAUDILL: It feels like, overnight, everything's been taken away from me.

INGOLD: He spent Thursday on the front lines of the relief efforts, bringing food and water to people and checking on neighbors. He said it's hard seeing his hometown in this state.

CAUDILL: Places where I've grown up and places where I've spent so much of my childhood at, and it's completely gone.

INGOLD: Emergency crews won't know the full extent of the damage until the waters have fully receded.

For NPR News, I'm Stan Ingold in Richmond, Ky. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Stan Ingold